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CHAP, i-     THE GOLDEN AGE OF ISLAM          69
seen in Western Europe for many centuries, and upon
the instructions of the Caliph the Patriarch of Jerusalem
sent the keys of the Holy Sepulchre to Charlemagne.
Haroun, at the request of the Frank ambassadors, not
only protected Western pilgrims who visited the Holy
Land, but even built a hospice for their entertainment, a
convincing proof of his broad outlook. From Chinese
sources we learn that an embassy was also sent by Haroun
to the Emperor of China. But these embassies were
mere incidents unrecorded by the Arab chroniclers, who
love to dilate on the splendour of the Caliph's Court and
the number of philosophers, doctors of law, poets, and
other learned men who assembled there and inaugurated a
period which reached its zenith under Mamun. It was
the lavish generosity of Haroun, who rewarded a poet for
a sonnet by a gift of 5000 pieces of gold, ten Greek slave
girls, a horse, and a robe of honour, that drew men of
letters to his Court. The main credit for this movement
is due to him, though, to some extent, he was following
in the footsteps of his father.
The Hasanite Prince of Day lam, A.H. 176 (792).—
Nevertheless there was another side to Haroun* s
character. The case of Yahya, a descendant of the Imam
Hasan, shows that, with all his great qualities, he was
not free from the treachery of his family. Yahya had
gained possession of Daylam, a district to the west of
Resht now termed Talish, and grew so powerful and
maintained so brilliant a court that the jealousy of the
Caliph was excited. Fazl, the Barmecide Governor of
Persia, was sent to attack him with a large army, but
terms were made and a document was drawn up and
sealed, according to which Yahya was to visit Baghdad
and there receive honourable treatment. The Caliph,
upon the arrival of the Prince, treated him with honour
and made him costly presents, but shortly afterwards
discovered a flaw in the document and threw him into
prison.
The Downfall of the Barmecides.—The fall of the
Barmecides is one of the best known events in Oriental
history, so powerful and distinguished were the family,